Thursday afternoon Ohio State announced a contract extension for director of athletics Gene Smith.
Smith, who took over for the retiring Andy Geiger at Ohio State in 2005, will receive a base salary of $648,000 (up from $600,000) in a deal signed Wednesday that runs through 2016. He is eligible for incentive bonuses of up to $100,000 per year. Those bonuses are tied to achievement by Ohio State athletics teams both on and off the court or field of play.
The new contract also formalizes Smith’s role as assistant vice president of the university, a position to which university president Dr. E. Gordon Gee appointed him last year that is designed to allow Smith to provide leadership and representation to Ohio State in scenarios other than as AD.
“Gene Smith is not only one of the country’s finest collegiate athletics directors, but he is also one of its most dedicated academic leaders,” Gee said upon making the announcement of the new deal. “All of us at Ohio State – our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – are very fortunate to have his sound judgment and leadership.”
Smith described his first year-and-a-half on the job as anything but smooth as he dealt with NCAA investigations, a lawsuit from former men’s basketball coach Jim O’Brien and a reorganization of the department, but he said he was thankful for the strong group of people put in place by Geiger before he retired.
“That’s where it was smooth,” he said. “The coaches I was blessed to be able to come here and work with – Jim Tressel, Thad Matta and all the other coaches – are outstanding. The staff that I was blessed to inherit – that’s where it really went smooth. When you talk about that, yes from that perspective it went smooth. Behind closed doors those first 12-18 months there were some issues dealt with.”
Smith also expressed pride in changes made to the Student Athletes Support Services Organization, calling it in its current form “the best academic support system available to a student-athlete,” and pointed to a relative dearth of embarrassing incidents involving players during his tenure.
“We have significantly reduced the off-the-field challenges that we had historically had,” Smith said.
While a greater emphasis has been put on developing students' character, winning remains a priority as well.
“When you do those things well, you’re able to recruit good kids with good character that ultimately win," Smith said. "Winning is still a major part of what we’re all about. Student-athletes want the opportunity to be a part of championship programs. We want to recruit the best and the brightest and when we’re winning those championships, the best and the brightest will want to be with us, so all those things have to tie, there has to be a perfect synergy, and that’s what we strive for.”
Saying he and his wife, Sheila, have put down roots in Columbus, the Cleveland native called Ohio State “my final home.”
Although the announcement did not come until Thursday, Smith spilled the beans to reporters from BuckeyeSports.com and Columbus ratio station WBNS 1460 at an event held in conjunction with the NCAA women’s basketball committee’s visit to Columbus for the city’s bid to host a future NCAA Women’s Final Four.
Asked how organizers can assure the committee that the same enthusiasm they saw in the city that day would remain if and when the Final Four were to take place there, Smith replied, “I’ll just go tell them I just signed a contract to 2016. That enthusiasm will be here. It won’t go because I’m going to be here.”